Visitors Visa

Requirements and application procedure

A visitor’s visa is normally valid for three months, but people on business visits or undergoing medical treatment and the retired parents of an Australian citizen can obtain a visitor’s visa valid for 12 months.

If you’re applying for a long-stay visitor’s visa, you must be able to show that you have access to adequate funds, although the amount is lower if you will be staying with friends or family in Australia.

Nationals of certain countries can obtain three-month visas on the spot from travel agents (see Electronic Travel Authority below) and at Australian missions (if you’re applying by post you should allow a minimum of three weeks in most countries). Many travel agents and companies provide a visa application service for visitors, although there’s usually a fee in addition to any visa fee levied by the Australian government.

It isn’t necessary to make a separate application for a child who’s included on a parent’s passport. Your passport must be valid for the period of your proposed stay in Australia.

If applicable, ensure that your visa allows multiple entries within its period of validity, when it should be marked ‘multiple travel’.

A visitor’s visa for stays of up to three months carries a fee of either $65 or $170, a visa allowing stays of up to a year costs $65 or $200.

Visitors to Australia are required to sign a declaration stating that they ‘have never had tuberculosis or any serious condition likely to endanger or be a cost to Australia’.

Electronic Travel Authority

Australia has one of the most efficient visa processing systems in the world for visitors planning to spend up to three months there, called Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). The ETA system builds on the Advanced Passenger Clearance (APC) system whereby Qantas passengers arriving at Sydney airport can be cleared in as little as 20 seconds! It’s designed to fast-track passengers at airports through immigration and customs processing, and has substantially reduced the time taken to process passengers. It also allows passengers on certain flights to Australia to complete their immigration and customs processing while in the air. On arrival, electronic cards containing passenger details are simply ‘swiped’ through an immigration card reader.

Citizens of the following countries are eligible for an ETA visa: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, the US and the Vatican City. (There are plans to scrap visitors’ visas for visitors from ‘low risk’ countries, i.e. rich countries such as Canada, Japan and the US, whose nationals usually have little intention of overstaying their permitted period in Australia.)

Under the ETA system travellers can obtain visitors’ visas at the same time as they make their travel arrangements. Travel agents using the ETA system simply enter your passport number into a computer system linked to the Australian immigration database and receive a confirmation within seconds. No stamp is placed in your passport. To qualify, you must travel to Australia on a participating airline (includes most major airlines) or a cruise ship.

An ETA visa is usually issued free of charge (although agents may levy a fee, and for certain business classes there's a charge of $65) and is valid for a single entry into Australia within a year of issue.

In mid-2001, the Australian government introduced an online ETA application (www.eta.immi.gov.au ) whereby for a fee of $20 payable by credit card only, you can be issued with an ETA visa online. Your application is processed while you’re online and you're informed of the result of your application before logging off. As part of the application and approval process, you're issued with a reference number and you can check the status of your application and approval at any time on the site.

It’s possible to obtain an extension for a visitor’s visa under certain circumstances, although you must apply before your visa expires and must have a good reason. Visitors aren’t permitted to engage in any type of employment or formal study. They may, however, undertake non-formal study involving short-term courses of up to three months which are recreational or ‘personal-enrichment’ in nature and aren’t subsidised by any government.

The ETA system is eventually intended to replace visa application forms and labels or stamps in passports, although if you require a passport stamp you must complete an Application to visit Australia for tourism (form 48).

This article is an extract from Living and Working in Australia. Click here to get a copy now.

Further reading

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